The British Library has shown off its final designs for a large expansion of the library to the north of the current building, including early works for Crossrail 2.
The proposed development would involve extending the northern aspect of the existing British Library to provide library accommodation; commercial space designed to cater for knowledge quarter uses (including life sciences, cultural, scientific and heritage collections and data sciences); retail space; and the Crossrail 2 works at basement level.
The extension is being designed to sit on a large plot of land that’s been reserved for it ever since the library was moved to St Pancras in 1998, and that plot is about 40% of the size of the current library site. The new building will however be taller and have a lot more floor space, so it adds considerably more space to the library than it seems at first glance.
In addition to the extra office space, there will be new events spaces for public events, and doubtless to be rented out to earn income. And to increase income for the library, the upper floors of the new extension are designed to be used for commercial rent, either as offices or medical labs, tapping into the area’s growing cluster of medical research firms.
It is anticipated that a decision on the planning application will be made by Camden Council in autumn 2022.
Although above ground, this can be described as a grand, but otherwise fairly conventional office development, it’s what’s going on underneath that is interesting, as it will sit right on top of the planned Euston/St Pancras station for Crossrail 2.
Although Crossrail 2 is currently on hold, it hasn’t been cancelled, and the site that the library extension will sit on has been safeguarded for Crossrail 2. To avoid problems in the future, the library extension will include the facilities for Crossrail 2, although they will then sit there as empty voids under the building until the railway needs them.
This sort of long-term planning has happened before, with offices often being required to adjust piling or basements to accommodate expected railway upgrades often a decade or more before the railway needs them.
The British Library site will include a deep shaft at the western end of the site, descending from street level through 6 underground levels, to the future depth of the railway tunnels. The shaft will connect to the running tunnels and platform of the new station, and house ventilation, escape and vertical transport infrastructure facilities, including escalators, when CR2 is eventually commissioned.
There will also be a basement space, to accommodate a series of plant rooms, including a large ventilation fan chamber, connecting to the deep shaft, along with surface access to these facilities.
They will also build an underground pedestrian passageway connecting east-west across the site to provide a route for passengers between the new Crossrail 2 station platform and an expected ticket hall to be built in the future under Midland Road.
There is a certain appropriateness in part of the site being used for railway infrastructure, as it was once the huge Midland Railway goods yard sitting next to St Pancras station.